Monday, November 21, 2011

Dysfunctional Families, National Novel Writing Month, & Shameless Self-Promotion

In recognition of National Novel Writing Month and in honor of dysfunctional families everywhere as we begin the holiday season (and, because frankly, it would be cool to sell some copies of my book), I present to you:

Thanksgiving Day with the Pearsons
An excerpt from “Homecoming: A Novella”
by Yours Truly

My mother was just at the apex of her sugar/alcohol buzz when my aunt and uncle arrived, so they were treated to the most gracious of her host personae. Uncle Cliff had a cold bottle of beer in his hand and was stretched out in my father's recliner chair in front of the TV before he knew what was happening. Aimee was tasked with carrying the bags to the last empty bedroom so her mother and mine could finish off the pitcher of mimosas.

Once they'd had a chance to relax, my mother informed everyone we'd meet Jimmy at the club for a special holiday brunch. I curled myself into the far corner of the couch and started flipping through a magazine. Aimee sat at the other end, picking the chipped nail polish off of her toes. It was my mother's show now and there was nothing to do but sit back and watch the circus.

My aunt oozed sugar as she admired the house and the decor, which my mother greedily lapped up. The sisters went on an inch by inch inspection of the lower level of the house as they sipped their cocktails, my mother nonchalantly pointing out what was new since her sister's last visit and her sister praising her sister's exquisite taste, while letting it slip that she had recently acquired something similar and more expensive. Uncle Cliff had fallen asleep before finishing even half of his beer, the warm house and the white noise of female chatter and football being too much for him. Everyone was settling nicely into his or her rut.

"Cliff! Are you asleep?" chided my Aunt when the Grand Tour returned to the living room.

"Uhn," replied Uncle Cliff, who shifted in his chair, threatening to spill the half-full beer resting limply in his hand.

"Clifford!" she said sharply and there went the beer, all over his pants, the chair and the carpet.

"Dammit, Cherilynn, look what you made me do!" He struggled to haul his notable girth out of the chair.

"Well, who told you to go to sleep with a beer in your hand?"

"OBVIOUSLY, I didn't intend to fall asleep with a beer in my hand..."

"He falls asleep everywhere were go," Cherilynn confided to her sister. "He doesn't sleep right though the night. I think he has that sleep apaplia thing..."

"Sleep apneepa," 'corrected' my mother, knowingly.

"That's it. Anyway, I told him to go see Dr. Mills about it, but..."

"Cheryl!" Uncle Cliff stood dripping, helpless. "I'm soaked here. Quit going on about sleep apnea and get me a towel."

The two sisters made a great flurry of getting towels to dry and soothe Cliff. Soon his ego was assuaged and he was comfortably reseated with a fresh beer.

"You know, I think you're gonna just have to change those pants." Cherilynn hovered over her husband. "Look where it's starting to dry. You can see a line. It's going to stain."

"Hell, honey, I didn't bring any other pants but these. We're only going overnight and I figured I could get two days out of these." My aunt's face burned with embarrassment. A man with a single pair of pants was not a husband to be envied, even if the situation was temporary.

"Then there is nothing to be done about it. We're going to have to wash those. Go upstairs and take those off."

"And what do I wear in the mean time?"

"You can wear your pajama bottoms."

Uncle Cliff considered this and decided it sounded fine to him as his pajamas were more comfortable than the wet dress slacks.

"Wait. What about brunch? He can't wear pajamas to the club!" My mother's eyes were wide.

"Of course not, but he can't go like this." My aunt had a good point.

"Just send them girls out for some donuts. They aren't doing anything," my Uncle offered generously and in a moment my mother's fine plans vanished and were replaced with an overweight brother-in-law sitting around her magnificently appointed living room in his pajamas gorging on donuts and beer. "Get some of them Krispy Kremes. On the way in I saw some kids selling 'em in the parking lot of the Baptist church. Raising money for their Youth Group, I think is what the sign said."

By this point, my mother's buzz was on the decline, as was her blood sugar. The fruit salad and yogurt as well as the club's champagne service would have been the boost she needed to keep her in the Happy Hostess Zone. A box of cold, stale donuts baked who knows how many days ago as part of a fundraiser and purchased in a parking lot was not a satisfactory substitute. I could see the storm clouds forming.

"I think bringing something in is a great idea," I volunteered. "Mama, Aimee and I'd be glad to go pick up something." My mother smiled. She felt safe that, whatever I managed to put together, it would not be Baptist fundraiser donuts.

"OK, honey. You girls probably want to get out of the house for a bit, anyway. Take my car and there's some money in my purse." We all waited a moment for Uncle Cliff to offer some funds. He nearly missed his cue, absorbed as he was in the football game. A gentle smack from his wife's hand to the back of his ear brought his attention around.


"Cliff, give the girls some money." He reached for his wallet and proffered a $5 bill, for which he received another swat.


"Cliff, they need more than that."

"It's $5 a dozen. How many damn donuts are they planning to buy?"

"They aren't getting those nasty donuts. Stop being so awful." Cherilynn relieved him of his wallet, counted out several bills and handed them to me. "Now, go upstairs and get changed so we can get those in the wash." We made for the door as Uncle Cliff dutifully climbed the stairs.

Shameless Self-promotion: “Homecoming: A Novella” is available from, B&, The Sony Reader Store, iTunes, Pegasus Books, Diesel, a bookstore, and Page and Palette.

Today's lesson: If I can write a book, anyone can. National Novel Writing Month isn't over yet. Give it a try. You might find you enjoy playing with words on paper.

Next: 25 Things for Which I Am Grateful

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